Fellow Man

Humanity must come together or be torn apart if they're all to survive in this new, very old, world.


The Cretaceous (Modern: May 4th, 2013)


The more they run through the forest, the more obvious it becomes: there are no trees with regular leaves; all conifers, cycads, and some with genus unknown, choked so by alien ferns growing oddly upon their branches.

The source of the cry for help is not too far away. Less than a minute at a rush. Around a thicket of thin cycads growing so tightly together they could be one entity, their combined branches and feathery leaves creating a massive umbrella that blocks out even the inkling of light, another, huger bog, creating a massive, oily depression that disappears deep into the forest. It's surrounded by a bank of wet mud so full of minerals and forest waste that it's nearly black, and smells even more strongly of sulfur and rot than the first.

"H— help! No! Jislaaik!"

Castus, the presently silent warrior, halts, careening his head back to stare high toward the source of the terrorized calls.

Up in the great twist of cycads clambers a male figure, his dark skin shimmering with sweat, his suit making a strange flag of colour, a deep berry-stain purple, finely tailored and ill-suited to tree-climbing. He balances upon a slippery, vine- and- fern-choked branch, stretched out a dozen feet above the water. As he straddles it with both hands and, barely, both knees, it bends ever downward toward the gooey abyss — but the bog mud is not what he's afraid of most.

The thick water ripples on and off like a living thing.

Gerald follows Amelia with hesitant steps, continually looking backward toward where they left the others with a camel. His hands clutch his briefcase and his umbrella until they find the man in the tree. He stops when Castus calls for it, eyes suspiciously shifting between the rippling water and the suited man. "Good Lord, how ever are we going to get him down from there? That bog will suck anyone right to the bottom in moments."

Stepping up to a stop behind Castus, her pace having slowed considerably before the bog, bowl hat slanted across the top of her head from the momentum of the trek, Amelia briskly looks up at the trapped man then down to the bog, eyes measuring. Same eyes move to the ground between them and the bog, skipping feet and feet backward until— holding out both arms, she grasps gloved fingers into Gerard's coat shoulder and into the muscle of Castus' and steers both men with a firm drag backwards with her. "Presently," she informs Gerard at this new vantage, "More what concerns me is what provoked him up there in the first place."

She has every right to be concerned.

The rippling in the dark water mounts. Pollen and twigs suspended on its thick surface roil in sick undulation. At uneven points across the bog, the water appears as though it's sucked down into the hellish depths; truly, it sluices off what lies beneath. Pointed ridges, the same hue as the bog itself, take shape in a double row that meets into one down a long, snaking shape. At the other end, the last ridge blinks: a round, amber eye risen above the water, embedded like a stone in hard armoured flesh. Despite the warm yellow, nothing but coldness lies behind the single gem-like orb. The massive body of the thing writhes just an inch, and the bog water trembles against its shore; scales, the size of a human palm, knitted together in crocodilian precision, glint; its long skull is almost as tall as Amelia tall.

Combined, the creature's features strike a deep, instinctual part of the mind, the primitive coil of matter and nerves that remembers giant scaled beasts in the water means danger; they know this creature, this warped and monstrously huge version of a strong-jawed creature they know; fear of its ilk are in their DNA. The humans' ancestors shout run, run before it eats you whole, it is faster than it looks.

The poor soul poised above it all fumbles and almost slips.

Stepping back, Castus nearly misses the rise of the creature, his startled swing of his head toward Amelia's touch on his arm overtly and overly pronounced and felt: momentarily that oddity is larger than the giant in the swampy water. He misses little, however, and the still silent warrior's observation of the life within the bog — and the life suspended, above — is as sharp, expansive, and frightened as it ought to be. Hovering around the shock of primal shock of fear is a glassier-eyed awe that gradually, in the mere seconds he is unmoving, seems to rise beyond being afraid.

Anything that can strike such fear is deserving of respect, in the eyes of a warrior.

Above, the stranded man resumes shouting, his words stumbling over themselves in his pure surprise that his desperate cries were heard. "Y— p— please, please! I don't want to die!" His pleas are accented with a dialect not quite British, its detail obliterated, anyway, by the strength of his screams.

Castus steps back further, striking arms across the fronts of Amelia and Gerard, layering attempts that they all move back even more. He lifts a hand high in the air as if saying hello. It's calm against the frantic desperation — hello, I see you, we've got you — but his stare into the water is less decisive.

The giant crocodilian creature sways slowly from side to side; the whole swamp suffers the ripple effect, remarkably faint and soundless, testament to how precise and deadly it can move itself. It is nigh impossible to read deeply into that cold eye, but the yellow blink and roll back suggests an undeniable fact — or fate.

It knows they're there.

It's trying to decide if they're easier prey.

Gerard is an easily moveable figure. The events that have unfolded before his very eyes are enough to make him malleable for the moment. "Bugger all if that isn't a Sarcosuchus. Look at that skull span!"

Yes, delightful— floats in the back of Amelia's constricted throat, an astonishing earnestness clogged by sarcasm and nerves. A hand reacts first, glove batting with a ruffle of leather. "Professor— " bat, bat; it means something, doesn't it, "Your umbrella— " the words bubble out, caution oiled over with practicality: cogs moving as fast as Amelia isn't, eyes unflaggingly glued to the one studying her, analyzing it right back.

While clearly nervous about being put face to face with such a dangerous creature, the awe is impossible to ignore in Gerard's voice. "That is a live Sarcosuchus." Something clicks in his head. "You know. I don't believe we are in Kansas any more, friends. In fact, Kansas would be a couple millennia away." Only then does he remember that Millie gave him an instruction that might save their lives. "Oh, right, pardon me miss." Handing his briefcase over to whoever is easiest, he sticks his umbrella forward and then opens it in front of them.

A click-tchh has heralded the readying swing of a Winchester rifle, dropping onto the umbrella's upper curve, bouncing slightly with the wavering of Amelia's one hand while she employs the other in engaging Castus' arm a second time, taking and shoving him at an angle towards the beleaguered man's perch. "Castus," 'don't be alarmed', perhaps, or 'prepare yourself' might have been in the script; now bypassed for a simple: "On my shot." He'll find out readily enough with the hammering back of the trigger, releasing a burst of sparks that inspire a round metal ball to fly at heroic speeds towards the living, breathing, preying Sarcosuchus' visible eye.

The loud blast inspires a screeching flurry of activity up in the treetops; never, in all their lives, have any of the creatures of the swampland heard a noise such as that; neither has Castus, who, though he remains still, prepared as he can be for whatever event is to unfold, promptly drops Gerard's handled box.

The massive crocodilian eye is a sharp flash of amber, no time to blink. Can honed, reptilian instinct fire faster than a Winchester rifle?

The two are on even ground.

Amelia's shot is true; had the beast's muscles not begun to churn into action at the same time as the trigger, it might have buried into that cruel eye, flush into its skull—

A second; a snapping turn, a twitch of its head—

The metal strikes its deadly jaw, visible as it opens its mouth but disappearing as though the dark, thick scales work as quicksand. Gaping, revealing the top row of finger-length teeth, a deep hiss escapes its throat. It snaps murky water in their direction, and the swamp seems to explode with the force; it roils and splashes the men and woman, practically spilling over as the oversized animal thrashes in displeasure, a threatening mere mimicry of what it could do if it had something between those jaws meatier than the taste of its own pain.

It sinks beneath the water, but it does not hide: swells of swampwater keep it evident, spiky ridges bolting above the surface here and there, its long, narrow snout pointing toward the tree like the hull of a boat, closer, closer.

It's the turn of Castus, this time, to lay a hand upon Amelia's arm, moments after he begins to take off toward the tree and thought differently, a rapid, ponderous change of heart overcoming him. A weighty glance passes over she and Gerard both, flashing with sharp tactical intelligence, settling hurriedly upon the woman with her perplexing weapon.

The crocodile lashes in and out of the water purposefully; it is cold and cautious, not scared and retreating. Under the tree, it could just as easily turn and breech more solid ground if it so chose.

The warrior's head leans toward Amelia's.

He speaks.

"The odds are not of a favour."

To their ear, his voice forms urgent but perfect English; yet his very tone, his phrasing, is summoned from elsewhere and still, carried over from the Latin grace, remarkably better spoken than his barbaric garb and blood-splattered skin might suggest, each word precise.

"Yet I make promise: I will make attempt to see the man from tree while you split the heavens once more, seizing opportunity to kill the beast, if we combine mad plans." Sparkling eyes form amusement before they harden almost dangerously. "Stay, both of you, here, absent harm— until I return." Castus begins to depart backwards, his heavy form light-footed, ready to sprint — no time to lose — but his eyes are locked on. "Make promise!" The demand seeks trust.

"That is, if there even is a Kansas where any of you are from." After making the leap that they are in some form of either so far in the future that the dinosaurs have returned or so far in the past that they still lived, it doesn't take much extrapolation to gather that they all come different periods in time. Gerard is still babbling, but his mouth snaps shut about the time the Winchester fires and the Sarosuchus moves back beneath the swamp. The umbrella flutters open and shut menacingly, his attempt to make sure that the large beast stays where it is. The tossed aside briefcase is noticed, but not mentioned upon. It wouldn't be proper at this juncture.

"Are you mad, man? You're going by yourself?" He studies the creature for a moment, then the poor man stuck in the tree. "Alright. If this is going to happen, we must coordinate. Miss," he indicates Amelia, "You are quite handy with that Winchester and he had quite a good idea. Let's focus the fire power. The weakest point of an alligator is its eyes and I must assume that evolution did not go backwards." He ducks down and sifts through the grass until he has a small pile of stones. It does not take him long. "If you are a quick reload, I believe I can distract the creature with some well aimed stones. You can go for the eyes and if it opens its mouth, aim for the Palatal Valve. It's underneath the tongue, but I believe a bullet should pierce that. If you hit that, you'll drown it. Also, make it angry, but let's leave that for later plans, shall we?"

"Cross my heart!" Letting the thick mossy breeze carry Gerard's words over her lower-statured head, Amelia nods briskly to Castus, "And when it comes barreling after you, you run, you warrior!" before swinging her chin to mark the slinking beast beneath the rippling murk of water. "Though I mark nothing on the no harm bit," she murmurs gamely beneath her breath, a tinge of lowness in her able sarcasm. With a jerk of her elbow, the Winchester rifle jumps to a ninety-degree, sawing the heavy-bodied lever near as thick as its owner's wrist — but she actions it without a second thought; just a second look, a second later, to eyeball the professor in a brief periphery spying that turns away as quick, "Blazes, but you do talk a deal." The rifle cocks back up, levels off against the umbrella a second time as Amelia stares unblinkingly down the sight. "Suppose you expect as much from a professor. The palatal valve, then?" If she's a bit groggy in annoyance, it's leftover from the shortly cursed "balls!" at the sight of her missing her target (the eyes!) — one that did nothing to deviate her from a practical and ongoing preparation. "And you are volunteering to get it to open its fascinating crocodile mouth, then?"

Disappearing from them, Castus runs, faster and more precise than their journey to the crocodile-infested swamp, for this time he knows where he is going; he leaves them with their monster-sized problem, increasing in its threat every second, as the creature is once again on the move.

A crashing, colossal splash of water erupts from the swamp; it seems unlikely that the giant beast could propel itself so high and so far out of the aquatic protection, yet it rises in one sudden move, all long snout and thick, plated body targeting its more shrinking prey. No matter that said prey is up in a tree: its set of crisscrossing, wicked teeth span are half as long as the tree is tall. Its vulnerable eye is but a tiny, moving pinpoint in comparison to the rest of the eight tons of animal.

Jaws snap, the narrow tip of its snout several feet short of the terrified soul on the high branch. It takes a lower branch with it as a result; it rips from the trunk, ripping it from the trunk with the ease of plucking a blade of grass; the man above emits a choked scream, knowing that could have been his spine.

Gravity takes the animal back down in a flash. It vanishes — all but that ominous ripple … until the ripple begins to slink toward Amelia and Gerard and dark ridges begin to rise. With the same lightning speed as its leap toward the tree, it climbs onto the low bank, lifting itself on strong, remarkably tall legs and clawed feet.

The water creature, as it turns out, can run.

Long enough to charge the nearest piece of meat.

"I find talking a much better pursuit than the possibility of wetting myself with fear." Scooping up one of the large rocks that he has gathered at his feet, Gerard takes aim and lobs it at the charging lizard. As soon as his projectile is away, he again jabs forward with the opened umbrella to intimidate it. The large human-eating creature being afraid of an umbrella seems outlandish, but he's willing to give them any edge to keep alive.

The rock arcs properly and either through Gerard's arm or an extreme case of luck, it crashes right onto the snout of the monster.

The charging crocodilian is effected in one way by the lobbed rock: it slows, for an increment, adjusting to this turn of events; not a threat, exactly, as even the large stone does not dent its skin. The umbrella serves to block Gerard enough fron its perception that Amelia becomes its target after its brief pause, a huge but narrow set of clamped teeth coming her way.

"Here we go— !"

Lifting off the Winchester momentarily, Amelia's right hand encompasses part of Gerard's arm, shoving him and his blocking umbrella to the side and off from her; it's a mild suggestion at best, but adrenaline kicks the gesture into a full-blown push. Wasting not a second, she takes a leaflet from her own advice pamphlet, kicking a foot back and then following it with a quick jog. A fleeting glance over her shoulder to check her trajectory with the common foliage of their environment then forward to mark the creature she dare not lose track of. Here, against all direness of the situation, the concentrated lines of survival wisening her round blushing face, a brush of enthusiasm — yes, even delight. She feeds on the evident danger with a nearly smug, but just slightly smart enough, lift of one corner of her pretty mouth.

But the landscape's less forgiving and her boots sink and stick on occasion, slowing her, and jarring the adventurer's cap on her head. In a check of it to stop the piece from blocking her rifle sight, she feels the thud and dull shoulder-blade ache of ramming into a more solid tree trunk on her left side, rolling along its width to regain ground.

The adventuress and the professor, faced against a mighty giant: the stuff of storybooks. Fantasy is snatched out of the air as easily as the crocodile’s teeth could chomp either one of them in half, but the beast certainly keeps giving fodder to Amelia’s fire for danger.

The sound of its jaws clacking together can be heard as it tests a small — relatively, that is — snap in the air, its sturdy legs carrying it closer and closer – snap, snap! The rocks thudding against its armor are the only thing that puts a hitch in its charge; the pause of an animal calculating the flick of an insect; it barely needs to calculate; it’s instinct. It slows after Amelia does, but every stone’s throw teaches it, gradually, that the stones are not enough danger to warrant attention.

It charges again.

Every time it stops and starts, however, it’s that much slower; tiny increments, sapping its muscle strength.

It’s cold-blooded.

It’s breath certainly seems hot as its snout comes at Amelia. Keeps coming. Keeps trying. Keeps its jaws directed right at her. It’s hungry.

The perspective its long snout and skull provide makes its eyes nigh invisible. If she could get to its side…

The crush of flora underfoot approaches: something safely two-legged— Castus, running as fast on his return as his departure, perhaps faster, surged on. He comes to a hard stop, planting sandaled heels so as not to go head over feet in the mud toward the scene, Gerard and Amelia looking as tiny dolls poised against a mythical monster. Its tail is the only thing remaining in the water, now, as it becomes landborne to lunge at its prey. The man still stranded in the tree.

A stare, a blink, he’s taken it in.

He hasn’t returned empty-handed.

The head of his enemy, the other warrior, is clenched under his arm; strange cavalry … fresh meat.

The living warrior’s priority switches, turning from those in need to the one already dead: lending the ground his axe and standing dangerously near the swampy bank, he holds the head firmly at his eye-level, speaking to it with great passion while, so near him, the others attempt to fend off their own deaths. He looks into the dead brown eyes as if they still lived. “Apologies, brother. I stand no champion your death, yet standing as brother was and shall forever be an honour. May your death prevent more than my own.” He kisses the head solidly on its bloodied forehead, rushing, now— “Go in peace.

He raises an arm – the head held high with it – and shouts loudly to the others. ”Bait! Yes?” His blue eyes shine, lively, daring… smug is a fair fit on his end, too. “Catch!” Preparing Amelia, hopefully, to take the – now flying – head into her possession to lure the crocodile while Castus rushes for the base of the tree.

"O— oh!" Excitement weaved with momentary distress as Amelia adjusts herself to match the head's arc while still backing from the crocodile's slowing yet still dangerous form. Crooking her arm, she accepts the flying head there, releasing the rifle reluctantly with one hand to let the decapitated tool roll down her arm to her fingers, smearing blood on both her sleeve and a few inches of her glove. What was once a second-rate warrior dangles from the grasp of her knuckles in its hair. "Professor!" She winds and, backing up a couple swift paces, lobs it towards Gerard, "On my mark, back at me!"

Seeing the monster crocodile move toward Amelia raises his chivalrous hackles and Gerard attempts to shake the umbrella even more to garner attention. As Castus bursts back on the scene, he boggles at the severed head now in his inventory, which is tossed to Amelia and then at him. "Good god," he tells them both. "That's a severed head." Disgusted, surprised and - currently - one handed, the head smacks into his palm and then drops to the ground. Gagging a bit, he ducks and picks up the head by the hair. "I am so sorry about this, dear man," he tells the head as he waits for the signal from his cohorts.

As they coordinate the head-tossing, Castus must turn his back to the precarious ordeal in order to deal with another one. He shouts up the tree. ”And you, friend!” Potential friend; potential enemy; current victim of circumstance. Other accoutrements have been taken from the decapitated body left back at the scene of their arrival; cuffs on his arms, straps of leather, a sword tucked at his back, odds and ends looted in a hurry; he throws a long lash of leather as far as he can upward. It takes more than one try to toss it high enough for the man above to snatch out of the air. They shout back and forth, up and down; the man above struggles to tie the makeshift rope around a branch, the length dangling above the swamp. Much like Amelia to Gerard, Castus times his rescue plan as well: “Upon my command!”

It’s the crocodile he watches as its fate is risked against the man and woman’s. A heavy clawed foot pushes along the ground, surging it again toward Amelia. If it’s possible for the perpetually ferocious-faced creature to look angrier — hungrier/ — it certainly does.

Backwards, backwards — in this sticky, jungle environment, running backwards carries almost as much danger as what Amelia seeks to avoid. But she cautiously marks her distance, hefts up the gun and, with an indecently crooked smile, shouts gamely, "Pull!"

The dripping, decomposing bait is gladly tossed into the air at the command, though Gerard cannot help but say, "That was a person, not a clay pigeon, madam." As the Professor, he's supposed to be the one that takes a step back and measures his surroundings and not get swept up in the adventure. He's more interested in how he opened a door and ended up in either a prehistoric or far future historic place where dinosaurs roam. Of course, that doesn't mean that he isn't incredibly invested in hoping that Amelia's shot hits its mark. In case it doesn't, he prepares himself to launch forward and push the lady out of the way of impeding doom.

Blood is in the air.

The crocodile’s senses are honed keenly to the warm, moving body that makes up Amelia, but the meat being thrown gets its attention like a predictable dog after a treat – on a massive scale. Its diminishing power stores are used without thought, without consideration; it is fueled only by hunger as it surges hardest, its long, narrow skull and upper body lifting off the muck, its jaws flinging open—

”Climb!” Castus shouts, bidding the man to grasp the leather strap. Forgive him if he is hesitant to scramble upon the slippery branch onto a string as thin as his little finger to hover over a deadly swamp. He nearly falls straight into it, in fact, before ever reaching the lifeline, his suit nearly as slippery as the branch itself; a knee skids off and his whole body veers, held by nothing but unforgiving gravity. A frantic grasp on the leather strap is the only thing that saves him from plummeting; he finds himself clinging to the swaying thing like a child on a rope-swing, if having infinitely less fun. He is poised high above the water even as he shimmies down, but the warrior below is treading dangerously into the muddy water around the tree’s half-submerged roots, prepared—

Amelia’s sight is filled immediately with rows and giant teeth, a gaping maw of nightmare proportions, and a wave of rotted flesh breath; it seeks to chomp the decapitated head and the woman whole at once—

The Winchester’s shot seems to disappear inside the mouth of the Sarcosuchus. Its deafening noise is followed by the strange, muffled sound of metal embedding into a living thing — she hit it.
Its jaws still come at Amelia; the poor man’s head rolls, caught, into its mouth; yet woman nor the piece of a dead man are chomped; its jaws lock open as a ragged hissing noise emerges and the giant beast smashes fully onto its belly.

Its heavy skull becomes the threat as it thrashes its head once before beginning a vicious squirm backwards through the trough in the mud it made on its way up.

The leather strap, meanwhile, snaps.

Castus catches the – screaming – man in his arms as the crocodile’s distraught tail swishes too close. It's sinking to safety but foaming bubbles rise to the surface instead. Like the crocodile, the warrior backpedals – unlike the man he has in tow, Castus is laughing all the way, unadulterated and adrenaline-fueled.

"Hah!", too, the noise from Amelia releasing the half-breath left from her shot steadying exhale; hardly full of victory, it's short and puffed, more pure adrenaline than formed amusement, but still: success. Except for the mud-hole her left heel's sunk into so that, faced with the thrashing of the beast, her fleeing turns to a twist of her torso too late. Only the side tip of the monstrous mouth hits her, but, full force, and Amelia's swept off her feet — pulled loose from mud and muck — to fly sideways with a huff of more air that's then taken from her when she smacks into a tree with her gut and the elbow she threw up to try and protect her head.

The precious Winchester slips from her grip at only the last second, the final thudding impact, as she drops into the dirty environment, face stuffed into the injured arm as she stays there, still.

Watching both Castus and Amelia act, Gerard cannot say nor think anything but, "I am trapped here with madmen." The shot goes off and the monster sinks beneath the muck of the swamp. While Castus attends to their charge from the tree, his own attention is fixed upon the adventuress. The elder gentleman is quickly by Amelia's side, scooping up her rifle as he closes his umbrella. His briefcase will be attended to shortly. "Miss? Are you alright?" He gingerly attempts to turn her over to make a better assessment of her condition.

The man squeezed in the arms of Castus is still trying to catch his breath from his ordeal when he’s swung around in a circle. He appears to be thirty years of age or so, up close, and his fine suit is much cleaner than everybody else; he was trapped in that tree but he must not have ever touched the swamp below, defying logic. The hems of his slacks are finally accosted when he’s deposited on the less-than-solid ground and given a solid slap on the back that nearly doubles him over. “By God— th—thank you…”

Victory is cut short as the warrior's swing around points him in the direction of the others, filling his sights with what seems to be injured Amelia and attending Gerard. Both men are off like a shot, one steadier than the other; the slighter man stumbles quickly after Castus with little sense of his own bearings.

And both men reach the site of their companions before awareness shudders Amelia's eyelids and she swerves up, instantly regretting the action when her head flies backwards from the pain as if she'd been shot. "Oh!" the complaint, before everything begins to even out and she can assess that it's mostly coming from her arm; she protected herself adequately… sort of. Covered in gunk, she sidles her butt backwards in it, trying to gain space next to Gerard to stand. The hit has dislodged her bowl-shaped hat, sitting it crooked and loosing the sight of beautifully messy brown plaits that once used to be tight against her head. "You— " her eyes find Gerard blearily and her hand rolls out to its palm, "Dulcinea, please."

"Ah—not too…" Gerard attempts to warn her not to move too quickly, but not only does he doubt the woman will listen to him, he's also tardy in his warning. "Are you calling me a lady sweetheart?" The man is genuinely confused, but also amused at the term, one corner of his mouth quirking upward. "Or do you happen to mean this?" His hand gestures with the rifle and then places it delicately in her outstretched hand. "Allow me?" Much like the gentleman he is, he also offers a hand so as to both steady her in the muck as well as once she's standing. "That was quite the shot, miss. Also the tumble."

“Has the slayer of monsters been injured?” Castus addresses the woman, his tone both commending and amused – if concern is also present, it is not prioritized. Now that Amelia is alert once more, an electric shine has returned to his eyes and a smirk to the corners of his mouth.

The crocodile, indeed, is slain: it’s meeting its fate in the swamp-water, its own habitat betraying it as water floods its throat. It thrashing has already begun to wane.

It is an altogether different expression that the other man holds, the newest addition to the ragtag group of displaced humans. He’s yet to progress beyond traumatic disorientation and the new relief of being alive – thanks to the combined efforts of these strange people. “H— hello…”

Grasping Gerard's hand, Amelia hefts herself up, muttering, "No, no, the potential slayer of a single prehistoric crocodile is just fine," and with the Winchester rifle securely in her other hand, she appears, at first, quite so, besides the ambiance of filth. "'Scuse me," is offered with friendly briskness to the man they've fished from a tree as she passes them by, striding right up to the muddy feet before the water's edge to watch for any sign of that creature finding some unholy second wind; it's a dinosaur crocodile in what she believes to be 20th century Egypt — anything is inherently possible.

"It appears a warrior's task is never finished." Gerard watches Amelia move toward the water with apprehension. "She took a nasty fall," she tells Castus. "She should be fine with a bit of rest." Which, of course, it doesn't look like will happen. As the man they risked their lives to help approaches them, he sticks out a blood and mud covered hand to shake. "Gerard Foster." Glancing toward the swamp and then back the way they came, he says - loud enough for the entire group to hear - "Perhaps we should return to the others? Safety in numbers and all that."

The man hesitates but clasps Gerard’s hand. His own his scraped, bleeding and rope-burned. “Jacques … Jacobsz,” he replies, slow and cautious. His name, a particular blend of French and Dutch and his particular accent both match the same origin: South Africa. “There’s— more of you, then? Who are you people? I’m glad—I owe you all my life—but—“ Weak in the knees, he seems apt to replace Amelia’s downed pose.

The crocodile gives a violent throe in the water and Jacques leaps backwards against a tree. He slinks to a crouch, folding his hands over his face. “I’m sorry—I’m sorry…” He was saved from the crocodile, but it’s the overwhelming new world that eats him whole.

Castus seems to think this turn of events excuses him from introductions. He strides to retrieve his axe and stand beside Amelia instead, watching the crocodile. Its amber eye protrudes above the water; not much longer. As the creature sinks, the eye begins to grow glassier still. “I believe it dead,” he states; admiring, but sober; respectful of the dying creature. “A bigger adversary than any I have killed.”

"It was beautiful." Noted without hesitation — either for the kill or for her admittance; Amelia stands in funereal quiet as the dying eye goes under. "Alright then," is crisp, business-like, as soon as it vanishes. A snap of her head finds the others behind her and Castus, a scalding judgmental eye grading the new arrival as she drives a hand into her pocket, Dulcinea the Winchester rifle tucked under the other arm. "I do not enjoy that we have not heard from them as of yet, but— " as she's raising the antique whistle to her lips, Amelia's own eyes flutter in a dizziness respecting how quickly she's tried to move after her downing.

Castus may have startled when the woman laid her hand on him earlier, but he does not hesitate to lay his hand on her in the form of a steadying grip to her nearest shoulder. Blood and dirt are lent to her attire along with the firm hold. “The— “ His eyebrows raise, correcting himself with a amusement, indulging Amelia, “crocodile slayer forgets her mortality.”

"Yes. It seems we're all here under mysterious circumstances. There are others behind us. We came this way to see what the ruckus was about. And that, my friend, turned out to be you. As well as a large dinosaur. But, in any event, we should most likely gather in a group to figure out our next plan." Gerard moves to put a reassuring arm around Jacques just about the time the crocodile gives a death throe in the water. He is now putting his arm around air. "Don't worry about it, chap. You've been through quite the ordeal. It's best to get you some place - relatively - safe so you and our others can rest." Bending over, he picks up his briefcase and puts his umbrella over his shoulder. If it were not for the environment, he looks for all the world as if he's about to head off to his next class.

Jacques pulls himself together on the surface, at least, dragging himself straighter. He is a distinctly embarrassed man, but manages to nod distinctly and straighten the lapels of his suit. He and Gerard stand as distinctly out-of-place couple of gentlemen. The newest man’s loafers sink unpleasantly in the earth as he just stands there. “Dinosaur… I know a crocodile when I see it. But that size— they’ve been extinct for… millennia… and this flora…” Though stunned, he’s eager to move, taking a few steps so as not to sink where he stands, having no desire to be mired in the earth instead of stranded above it. “Is the girl alright— ?”

The girl luckily cannot hear that; she's looking sidelong at Castus, eyes half-narrowed in concentration either over his hand or her own lightheadedness — a certain quivering sensation still seems to linger over her as she stands, swaying slightly by the grip of his fingers. "I've done nothing of the sort," Amelia insists, reaching up to re-settle the tilted sit of her hat, pushing at her falling hair fruitlessly. "I've merely remembered the others. I've just got to— " Pulling the whistle to her lips, she lets loose a unique sound — unlike the usual act of whistling but near enough to it to be recognized as unnatural rather than a native creature.

"Yes, of course. Like you said, that size of crocodile has been extinct for quite some time. As has everything around us. Either we are all suffering from the exact same delusion, or we have been transported some place quite unnatural. I'm trying to decide if this is far in the past or possibly far into the future. There is a theory, you know, that should the Earth survive the expansion of the sun, things may retreat back to a world much like this one. However, I am against such a theory - evolution does not move backwards! - but standing here….well, who knows!" Strangely, Gerard sounds…excited at the possibility? With the crocodile taken care of and their charge safe and sound, it's easier for him to remember the incident like a scene in a movie and not a life threatening event that happened mere minutes ago. A sideways glance to the girl as Jacques put it is given with a shrug of his shoulders. "She most likely has a concussion. Possibly a sprained shoulder or arm. It will need to be looked after, but do you wish to be the one to tell her so?"

“… I suppose not,” Jacques decides, studying at Amelia and her rifle from afar. “They are … strangely dressed… weirdly armed, aren’t they…” he also decides. He appears stunned, the whites of his eyes stark and full in the dim swamp that dawn has yet to penetrate, if it ever will. His thoughts coming in and out of his trauma. “I agree— but with a change in oxygen, given enough space and time, animals can grow to… enormous proportions… huge! That’s of course—insane… ” As it would mean time travel in either direction, like Gerard said. On a furrow of his otherwise smooth brow, Jacques calls thinking quits for the time being.

Castus is tipping his half-shaved, rattily haired head like an over-sized dog at the whistle. When there’s no answer through the thick swampland, and a native creature replies with a screech in the distance, he tips it the other way. His lift of his heavy hand from her shoulder is slow and faintly showy, certainly overly purposeful, lacking only in a grand flourish. Onward, then, his twinkling eyes state as he takes a step the way they came.

Amelia nods succinctly enough but her first step after Castus is plagued with unsteadiness; beneath the drying cake of mud, she buckles but, tightening her grip on the rifle, pursues her path with renewed vigor. "Something's the matter," she declares formally, raising her voice to reach the other two men — all of whom are greatly more sizable than her yet she eyes them like a commander, "They should whistle back." Nevermind that they didn't know she had one, or that they've never heard it before, or that they may not even trust her at all; none of that seems to register or, if it has, it's been summarily dismissed as irrelevant.

"Yes. Certainly insane. Undeniably so." But, it doesn't sound like he minds entertaining the notion. Gerard's attention was already half on Amelia - as if waiting for her to collapse and hoping to avert that outcome. So, her declaration is heard without trouble. "Perhaps they didn't hear you." He turns, though, gesturing with his umbrella for them to head back the way they came. "In any event, we should certainly check on them. There may be many more surprises like that crocodile lurking about."

* * *

The shrill, clear scream of the whistle rings through the dense swamplands once more as the four individuals traverse on.

In places, they catch glimpses of footprints, human and dromedary, letting them track the second group; in others, the wet, mineral-rich mud eats the evidence up entirely.

They follow a vague path now; following the human reason of moving in a straight line rather than clear tracks, the last blurred by muck several minutes back.

The thud, thud footsteps of giants that haunted the former humans to come this way have reached their ears as well. Each noise is accompanied by a loud squelching and crack of branches; it sounds exactly like something they should not be headed towards.

A clear sneaker-print in the mud stands out suddenly, challenging otherwise.

"It sounds like a herd of elephants," says Jacques, who has been proving his worth in small ways when his nerves stop to shake — intervals, only, but in them he is a fair tracker, eyeing snapped twigs and crushed leaves as well as prints. He is not quite right, however: it does not sound like a heard of elephants. It sounds like the movement of bodies much larger.

Castus is intrigued by the noise ahead, clear in the squint of his eyes; he can't imagine the source; but his attention goes quicker to Amelia, who has, to his eye, been pushing herself, who looks distinctly pale after the blow of the whistle. It is with utterly no warning that the large warrior grabs her around the waist and, when she may feel her toes rising from the less-than-solid ground, his other strong arm bridges under her knees, yet holding his axe.

He carries the spirited adventurer like a sleepy child, or a sack of grain.

Ancient chivalry? Perhaps not entirely; he looks pretty amused with himself. 

"Excuse me, I— " did not realize the extent to which she was being assaulted; Amelia interrupts herself with a strict shout, less than a scream and not so stuffy as a huff, but sharp and alert now that she's inescapably being manhandled. Dulcinea smacks inconveniently between the two of them, eventually ending at Castus's back as she clings to it — the rifle, not the man. "Hmph! You brute, you— Castus!" Rather than make an insult of his name, she seems to be appealing to his better nature — of which she'd know nothing about, having just met the man, but infers that she expects it of him nonetheless.

Pale though she's become, the lady adventurer strapped across Castus' back is no wilting flower, even in the jungle's stifling air. With a crude efficiency, she throws one knee up into his built chest whilst catching Dulcinea in both hands and thrusting it against the back of the man's neck, effectively attempting to pull and push him down from both sides so that she might slide off in whichever direction he tips.

"So it looks like our former companions were chased off of this spot from," he looks toward Jacques, "elephants." Gerard puts his briefcase down and sighs. "This is a jungle. I have no idea how else to contact them. I doubt very much that there is available service here." He leans on his umbrella and watches Amelia and Castus' interactions. He knows better to intervene, but he is wary. "As this is the common meeting ground, perhaps we should stay here. Splitting up the group again seems like a bad idea. We'll merely separate the group further and further till we're all alone in the wilderness."

Jacques is well distracted by the tussle between two frankly intimidating figures. "We're last no matter where we go," he replies without taking his eyes off the others, wary of being sliced by a stray battle axe.

Amelia's efforts are not insignificant, but the man seems to be an utter fortress of a human being which she may climb and clamber but so far not penetrate. Muscles reamed and restrengthened uncountable times, forged into iron, flex to acknowledge the fight of Amelia and Dulcinea and push them out. He veers — never pausing the trek — to his left, gaining balance and the stark thwack of a high fern to the face, but catches the sliding woman in the crook of his arm. He endures everything without a crack in his cavalierly amused smile, which he points down upon her.

The warrior's voice firms as casual a statement as his bold, classical intimations may allow. "The lady grows pale and will not give pause until face-down in the mud like a whore." Castus has just met the woman, but this is what he infers of her nature.

Off of Castus' face, the fern streaks across Amelia's already twice dislodged hat, knocking it straight off of her and onto the jungle floor behind their footsteps. "Oh, now see— " grumbles the woman, reaching but missing. Clearing her throat with new vigor, she wiggles her butt to great comfort in Castus' grasp then politely but firmly thwaps him on the shoulder and part back as though he were a great animal and she giving it directions. "Down, boy. We've lost my hat. I'd say 'like a whore'," the word, base though it is, and practically said, somehow elegant with her witty tongue, "however I have met many in my travels and found none of their company displeasing nor, may I mention, particularly muddy. I found they always smelled much better than I did, really. Now." And she clucks her tongue expectantly.

"He does have a point," Gerard puts a finger up, channeling his professorial background. But, then, he quickly backtracks. "Not the whore thing, of course, but the running yourself ragged. You were just knocked to the ground by what - for all intents and purposes - looks like a prehistoric crocodile. You could possibly have a concussion and that requires you to be awake, but you should not put too much strain on yourself. We're quite far from any sort of medicine or doctors. Unless we happen to have a professional among our crowd. I have a few emergency pills and bandages in my bag, of course, but that won't last us forever." Finally, as he looks about, he sighs. "Will they be able to follow their tracks back here?"

"Perhaps they can't…" Jacques replies, but, meanwhile, is caught up in looking to and fro, studying his inexplicable new cohorts. “Are you telling me,” he begins to Gerard, narrowing eyes upon Castus, perplexed, “you understand everything he says?”

To the newcomer among newcomers, the warrior is speaking the same old Latin.

“I too enjoy the company of whores,” said Latin warrior tells Amelia with matter-of-fact joviality. The subject of their missing counterparts and the oncoming threat they seem to tromp toward seems less and less of dilemma to Castus, who is grinning quite widely by this point in time. “Perhaps a woman who is neither slave nor whore is less educated in their positions.” With one great and purposeful swirl that first lifts her higher than she began, he deposits Amelia back on the ground, leaving her to fend off her own dizziness and see how she fares then while he reaches to retrieve her hat. “Your bowl,” he delivers upon offering it up to her on his way to standing; after, first, wiping a faint layer of grime from its brim on his loincloth. An amused mockery of reverence, there’s yet a nod contained within that does at least underline the fact that he’s listening to her.

“Hey, there— “ Jacques speaks up again, stepping away from Gerard to point to the spot Amelia’s hat briefly rested on the ground. The treads of a modern shoe crisscross the mud, but they’re intersected by a distinctly inhuman, distinctly fresh track twice its size. It’s not a perfect imprint, but it tells them two things: something came through here very recently, and that something had at least two sharp claws.

"Then which are you," speculates the woman, yet graciously she accepts even a loin-rubbed hat. It's cradled and then flipped deftly onto her head mid-turn to greet Gerard— no, Jacques. The elder man's concerns weighing far less than the discovery that she equally squats to in the mud, tucking spare hairs inside her headwear where they'd rather cling to her forehead and temples in the humidity and sweat. "See," Amelia points with a curtly warm triumph, rising then to look Gerard reasonably in the eye. "I'll rest when I am more assured that I shall not be eaten for doing so." Including, suggests the low lid of her eyes as she looks askance at some of them, by those in her party. The rifle Dulcinea thumps reassuringly against her shoulder when she adjusts her. "Come on, then." A hand swings to slap Jacques encouragingly quite low on his back. "Hup! Find more."

"We may never be able to rest so assuredly again, my dear," Gerard tells Amelia with a level stare. However, he adjusts his backpack and makes sure he is carrying his briefcase properly. Then, he rests his umbrella over his shoulder as if he is expecting this to be a walk along the Thames. "However, it is in our best interest to find our wayward babes. So, lead on, sir and lady. Into the great vast unknown." He looks toward the fallen door he rode into this time period with a melancholy stare. "Though, I hope we will be back this way again at some point."

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